GUARDIAN OF THE SKIES


GUARDIAN OF THE SKIES

The following article was published by The Sun on Tuesday 22nd August 2017

Stunning pictures of forgotten WW2 base RAF Acklington show hero Brit airmen posing with their spitfires and downed Nazi bombers

 

The Northumberland airfield at Acklington protected the vital industrial sites of the North

HERO World War Two pilots who defended Britain’s skies from their base at a forgotten airfield are celebrated in this incredible collection of photos.

The airmen of RAF Acklington are shown posing next to Spitfires and Hurricanes, and enjoying down-time between missions.


Pilots of the 610 Squadron pose for a photo at RAF Acklington in 1940


Airmen of the 72 Squadron at RAF Acklington gather for a photo on a Spitfire

In other shots, some men can be seen straddling the huge propeller of a hurricane as a group of airmen gather for squadron photos.

A downed German jet is also seen floating in the sea nearby.

The images form part of book RAF Acklington: Guardian of the Northern Skies by Malcolm Fife.

Acklington served as Britain’s main air base for the North, defending the vital space above some of the largest industrial areas in the land.

However, it wasn’t initially expected to play such a vital role in the war effort.

Malcolm explained: “Acklington Airfield was Fighter Command’s most northerly airfield in England during the Battle of Britain.


Later in its life RAF Acklington was home to more modern fighters like this Hawker Hunter F6 as part of its flight-training school.


A German Dornier Do18 lies crash-landed in the North Sea in October 1939. It was used to rescue crashed aircrew


Squadron Leader S. Pietraszjewicz of 315 Squadron leans against his Hawker Hurricane


In early 1950 85 Squadron returned to RAF Acklington for training in De Havilland Mosquitos


72 Squadron Supermarine Spitfires head off the coast in 1941 to defend an area that was a magnet for German bombers for most of the war

“It was also one of the most important in the region throughout the Second World War. This came about more by accident than design.

“Shortly before the outbreak of hostilities, it had opened as a training station where pilots were given the opportunity to fire live weapons and drop bombs on the nearby ranges at Druridge Bay.

“With the declaration of war, it was transferred to Fighter Command, as military airfields in north-east England were few and far between.

“The fighter aircraft of Acklington were tasked to defend what was one of Britain’s most important industrial conurbations.

“Acklington airfield was situated on the edge of the Northumberland and Durham coalfield.

“There were coal mines and slag heaps in its vicinity, but much of the area was still farmland. Further south, industry dominated the landscape.

“The large cranes of the shipbuilding industry lined the rivers Tyne and Wear, and there were numerous other industries including iron and steel production and armaments manufacturing that acted as a magnet for German bombers for most of the war.”


72 Squadron A-Flight ground crew members take a break from ensuring the safe take-off of jets from Fighter Command’s most northerly airfield


A group of 43 Squadron pilots stick the unit’s fighting cock emblem onto the nose of a Hawker Hurricane in 1942


A Gloster Meteor of 263 Squadron lies crippled on the airfield after a landing accident in 1946


34 Squadron pilots sit ready to scramble at RAF Acklington

The book looks closely at how the airbase evolved over the duration of the war to become so vitally important to Britain’s war effort, with the Northern industrial cities remaining a target for the Luftwaffe even after the Battle of Britain had been won.

Fife also examines the role of the airbase after the war, detailing its role in the Cold War and as a flight-training school before it was closed for good in 1970.


Kiwi Don Whitten from 43 Squadron in front of a Hawker Hurricane


A Miles Martinet was a type of tug aircraft that operated from the base into the late 1940s